“It is the mark of an instructed mind to rest satisfied with the degree of precision for which the nature of the subject admits, rather than to seek exactness when only an approximation of the truth is possible.”
Aristotle 384-322 BC
Aristotle wasn’t a follower of Jesus. He lived 300+ years before Jesus was born. But he was a pretty smart guy. Since the above quote is a mouthful and wasn’t written with Bible Study in mind, I would like to rephrase it and make a point that will help us in our daily Bible study.
“Speak where the Bible Speaks and Be Silent where the Bible is Silent.”
Or, “Don’t make the Bible say what it doesn’t say!”
Many of the teachings that have divided God’s church originate from someone’s interpretation or opinion of a Bible doctrine that they forced on others. God has revealed a lot but only a certain amount. When we go past that revelation and then tell others they are going to Hell for not arriving at our same conclusions, we are in trouble.
For the sake of having a consistent systematic theology, or sometimes to win arguments and debates, we arrive at dubious conclusions. We often make the Bible be specific about something for our sake, when God has left it vague.
Whether it’s human nature or our western Greek heritage, we like everything neatly organized in lists, charts, and categories. But sadly, we crave that so much, that we often abuse the Word of God to make things fit.
I am not totally against a systematic view of Scripture. There is a great benefit in that. But too often, it comes down to spending a lot of time and focusing on things that God either didn’t say explicity or didn’t say at all.
We need, like Aristotle, to be satisfied with the “degree of precision” of God’s revelation on any given subject, and not try to force some precision for precision’s sake.
I am not saying we should give up short of an exhaustive and comprehensive study to make sure we know what God has revealed, but I suggest caution in our conclusions.